There are endless opportunities to see amazing avian creatures throughout the United States. This list is an excellent starting point for planning a birding trip on foot.
With memorable hikes spanning from Hawaii to Maine, there are sure to be a few new must-see places to add to your travel list:
Haleakala National Park: Kuloa Point Loop Trail & Halemauu Trail
Located on the island of Maui, you will see birds here that you can’t see literally anywhere else on the planet! Species of honeycreepers, Maui petrels, Hawaiian geese, and Hawaiian short-eared owls are among those must-see creatures.
California Point Reyes National Seashore: Estero Trail
This expanse of the protected seashore is one of the best bird watching spots in the entire United States. The shoreline along Drake’s Bay is just west of San Rafael and north of San Francisco. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website Ebird.org has 444 verified avian species documented here! This area is classified as an Important Bird Area for Tufted Puffin, Ashy Storm-Petrel, Western Gull, Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, and both the Brandt’s and the Pelagic Cormorant.
Cherry Creek State Park: Wetland Loop Trail & Prairie Loop Nature Trail
This protected land surrounding Colorado’s Cherry Creek Reservoir gets a lot of traffic in the summer, but spring and autumn are wonderful times to explore the many trails on the property. Bring your ID book with you, because a wonderful spread of warblers have been recorded here – including, but not limited to, Hooded, Pine, Orange-crowned, Blackpoll, and Magnolia warblers. Along the reservoir shore in springtime, birders have a chance at viewing one of Colorado’s rare visitors: the long-legged and long-beaked Hudsonian Godwit.
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Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Trail from Rattlesnake Springs Picnic Area
The total observed birds here is reaching towards 400 species, with migrating visitors and plenty of year-round residents. Many birders head straight to Rattlesnake Springs, which is said to have the most diverse bird population in the area. This is an excellent hike for discovering some difficult to find species, including Ladder-backed woodpeckers, Bell’s and gray vireos, varied bunting, and cactus wrens.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge: Rail Trail & Heron Flats Trail
Over 300 birds inhabit this large tract of protected habitat on the southwest side of San Antonio Bay. This area of the gulf coast has served as a research platform for endangered whooping cranes, estimated at around 500 individuals in this area. Their characteristic trumpet call can be heard in the winter months over the marsh. Matagorda Island sits just a bit further offshore, harboring elegant reddish egrets — which can be found in just a few select spots along the United States southern shores. Padre Island National Seashore is just south of this area and would make a great combined trip for an unforgettable bird watching endeavor.
Illinois Beach State Park: Nature Center Loop through Farnum Point
Just under the border of Wisconsin sits this conserved mixed-use area along the shores of Lake Michigan. 300 species have been documented here, including high numbers of tundra swans, White-winged and red crossbills, Caspian terns, and dunlins. The 400-acre lakefront oasis of Waukegan just south of the Park supports some of the only remaining natural dunes in the area. There is a self-guided hike here, put together by a partnership between the city of Waukegan and the Lake County Audubon to advance bird conservation and awareness.
Jones Beach State Park: Jones Boardwalk & Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway
Around 315 unique birds have been recorded on this barrier island, located in the Long Island region of Wantagh, NY. Watch for soaring raptors to catch a glimpse of the rough-legged hawk, a winter visitor to the region. During the spring and early summer, endangered piping plovers are making scrape nests in the white sand of the beaches here to raise their chicks. American oystercatchers are regularly observed here year-round, and visitors report annual sightings of the regal snowy owl.
New Jersey Gateway National Recreation Area: Old Dune Trail
Another one of the east coast’s best bird watching hotspots is this jetty-park reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is an extremely popular area for fishing, boating, and, of course, birding. Try to get here early in the morning for your best chance at observing a huge variety of seabirds. Over 356 bird species have been recorded in this area!
Acadia National Park: Jordan Pond Path & Jordan Pond Nature Trail
There are multiple forest types here in this unique, rocky coastal area of mid-Maine. The coastal habitat here is an obvious pick for great birding, but Jordan Pond is a wonderful experience for birders of all ages (accessed by its own parking area off Park Loop Road, with a trailhead that weaves around the entire body of water). Watch for a variety of woodpeckers among the tall trees, peregrine falcons, and other birds of prey.
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge: North Pond Trail
This area is really just a sliver of the barrier island off the coast of Rodanthe, but it is absolutely rich in wildlife. It is a well-known nesting area and migratory stopover site. The endangered least tern nests here and striking American Avocets are year-round residents. The incredible Black-necked stilt, who quite literally appears to be walking on stilts, can be observed in this area from April through October. With 325 bird species recorded in this wildlife refuge, there is plenty to see, hear, and experience.
Everglades National Park: Coastal Prairie Trail
We couldn’t compile a list of bird watching hotspots without including this incredible southern gem. Today we focus on the Flamingo Visitor Center and associated trail network along the southwestern-most part of the National Park in Monroe, Florida. This area is just inundated with different species of heron, gull, egret, and sandpiper. A favorite of birders in this area is the Magnificent Frigatebird, an extremely large soarer over tropical oceans. The entire park hosts well over 300 native species.
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